Occupations in the education sector comprise of the Teachers, Lecturers and Trainers operating in the Primary, Post-Primary and Tertiary education system.
There are specific requirements for students who want to become a teachers, depending on whether it is at Primary, Secondry or Tertiary level.
Brian Howard works as a Guidance Counsellor in Newbridge College in Kildare. He attended secondary school in Patrician Secondary School Newbridge. Following his Leaving Certificate he went on to do a B.Sc in NUI Maynooth. After completing his H-Dip he spent 5 years teaching Maths and Science before embarking on the Higher Diploma in School Guidance and Counselling in NUI Maynooth.
What were the main 'career decision' milestones in your life so far?
While in school I loved science based subjects and mathematics. As time passed in secondary school, I also developed an interest in teaching and hence to combine both I headed off to university to do a science degree with a view to doing the higher diploma in education afterwards and begin my teaching career.
Having taught Chemistry, Biology and Mathematics for a couple of years, I became quite interested in helping our school Guidance Counsellor in her various roles. Helping students to research the many career options available to them and spending time discussing the fruits of their research was something I found very interesting and quite rewarding.
I decided to go back to university and complete the Higher Diploma in School Guidance and Counselling, which would allow me to move full time into the role of school Guidance Counsellor.
I still find the role very stimulating and rewarding after some twelve years of practice. The work is varied and no two days are the same, different challenges presenting themselves all the time.
Who are the people who most influenced your career direction?
I suppose my own teachers were a great influence on my decision to follow the career path I have chosen in Education.
From an early age I knew I wanted to teach. Witnessing the committment and professionalism of my own teachers and the satisfaction they seemed to get from helping us learn and develop (most of the time!) motivated me to follow in their footsteps.
While teaching my academic subjects in school I witnessed the work of the school guidance counsellor and at times assisted in the guidance area informally. When the opportunity arose to train in guidance I discussed this with many colleagues and decided it was the right move for me.
How did you go about getting your current job?
I was a science and maths teacher in my school for a number of years. I took a study leave year which allowed me to go back to university to train to be a Guidance Counsellor.
Having completed the training, a full time position came available in my school. Having already been involved in guidance in the school informally it seemed a logical progression to move into the formal role of Guidance Counsellor.
Describe a typical day?
In many ways there is no typical day. In any day one might be involved in a host of different activities. Such activities could include taking a careers class, doing one to one careers interviews, conducting psychometric tests, having one to one counselling sessions, liasing with parents and teachers, administrative work and attending career related or continuous professional training events. At different stages of the year different priorities come to the fore.
What are the main tasks and responsibilities?
My main responsibiliy is to advise, guide and help students in the myriad of personal, educational and career decisions and choices they face during their journey through our school, from 1st year to Leaving Certificate.
This can involve many activities from one to one sessions with students, working with groups of students, organising different events/trips, speaking with parents and teachers and generally being there for students, if they need help or advice.
What subjects did you take in school and how have these influenced your career path?
For my Leaving Certificate I studied the three compulsory subjects: English, Irish and Maths. I had a great interest in science so I chose to do two science subjects - Biology and Chemistry. I wanted to keep as many options open as possible as I wasn't 100% sure what I wanted to do on leaving school so I chose one business subject - Economics and I chose a language - French, in order to keep all the universities open also.
In hindsight I think this was a good selection of subjects as it kept a lot of doors open while also allowing me to chose subjects I liked and did well in. I eventually went on to do a science degree so my 2 Leaving Certificate science subjects came in handy. Once I had my degree this allowed me to teach and subsequently do my postgraduate in Guidance Counselling.
What is your education to date?
I did my Leaving Certificate followed by a B.Sc. Science Degree.
I then did my postgraduate Diploma in Education which allowed me to teach in secondary school. After a number of years teaching I returned to university to study for a postgraduate diploma in Schools Guidance and Counselling which allowed me to practice as a Guidance Counsellor.
In recent times I also completed my Masters Degree in Education.
What aspects of your education have proven most important for your job?
Does your job allow you to have a lifestyle you are happy with?
As I am a Guidance Counsellor in a second level school I work the same hours as most teachers. These school hours allow for great opportunities to get involved in extra curricular activities after school. The hours also allow for one to develop and partake in hobbies and pastimes. Weekends are free, thus allowing for good quality time with family.
While a school Guidance Counsellor will never be a millionaire on the salary, it is a comfortable salary which will allow for a decent standard of living, where a nice house, car, etc. are within reach.
There is a lot more to my career than just offering career guidance. The Guidance Counsellor can give a great deal of time heping students cope with personal problems. We provide guidance to our students in relation to their future path to further education as well as future career. Certainly this career does suit someone who values a good quality of life with plenty of time to spent with family and pursue leisure activities, while at the same time gaining great satisfaction from helping young people make important decisions on their journey through school life.
What advice would you give to someone considering this job?
This career involves working with people in a caring capacity. If you have no interest in helping people personally or educationally then this may be the wrong profession for you.
Empathy, patience and respect are important qualities for this job, in addition to be able to relate well to the person you are dealing with. As there is also a large amount of information to be handled in the job, good organisational, IT and time management skills are also quite important.
What kinds of work experience would provide a good background for this position?
Any work experience in a Guidance and Counselling environment would be very helpful for this career. This may be in a school setting, in third level, in adult guidance centres or in any other setting where people are being helped to make life decisions, either personally, educationally or in relation to their future career. Also, if you are looking to work in a school setting it might be a good idea to get some experience working with young people in some capacity.